Uncovering CIA-Funded Experiments On Children In Europe During The Cold War

Was the CIA involved in sponsoring West German pedophilic foster homes overseen by the Social Democratic Party?

Original CIA headquarters building finished in 1961 (Photo from CIA's government website and in the public domain) 

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On January 26, The Dissenter covered how the CIA funded unethical experiments on Danish orphans for at least two decades from the early 1960s onwards.

These grim trials were conducted as part of the mind control program MKULTRA, which was secretly farmed out overseas as it wound down in the United States due to the threat of exposure.

A 1963 CIA Inspector General report shows that the expansion worldwide had unfolded for some time.

“It does not follow termination of covert testing of MKULTRA materials on unwitting U.S. citizens will bring the program to a halt. Some testing on foreign nationals has been occurring under the present arrangements,” the document stated. “Various U.S. deep cover agents overseas would appear to be more favorably situated than the U.S. narcotics agents to perform realistic testing.”

As such, it’s reasonable—and indeed vital—to ask, where else in the world did the CIA support unethical human experiments on vulnerable and defenseless youths?

West Germany, the country forged in May 1949 from the military occupation zones of the U.S., United Kingdom, and France, could be one place where the mind control program expanded.

Helmut Kentler and the Pedagogical Center

At precisely the same time that CIA-directed psychological torment of Danish orphans was underway, authorities in West Berlin were dabbling with something even more diabolical - state-endorsed pedophilia.

Psychologist Helmut Kentler advocated in the 1960s  for placing vulnerable youths in the care of pedophiles—on the ostensible basis that “loving environments” would effectively integrate them into society.

An influential figure, Kentler used his extensive political connections to market his ideas directly to lawmakers and state institutions.

Kentler established the Pedagogical Center in February 1965 to conduct various tests and trials. The results were supposed to help educational authorities develop best practices for nurturing the nation’s youth.

Fully endorsed by the city’s Senate and Social Democratic Party (SPD) and West Berlin Mayor Willy Brandt, the Center was granted a multi-million dollar budget, along with 37 staff. It was overseen by SPD Senator for Schools and Education Carl-Heinz Evers, who knew Kentler personally. (Brandt later served as West German chancellor 1969 - 1974.)

Children in West Berlin were sent to live with pedophilic foster parents at Kentler’s direction in 1969.

Kentler's ideas gained increased currency in the wake of incendiary student protests, which erupted across much of the Western world the previous year. These mass actions revitalized the writings of Austrian psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, in particular his early 1930s works The Sexual Struggle of Youth and The Mass Psychology of Fascism.

Reich’s thesis was suppression of sexuality went hand-in-hand with obedience to authoritarianism, as an individual’s perspectives and predispositions were formed during their formative years. The argument went that it was necessary for people of all ages to become sexualized, and embrace their sexuality.

The resurrection of Reich’s ideas was no doubt welcome to West Germany’s occupying powers. The notion Germans were psychologically and genetically disposed towards aggression and dictatorship—and that German society needed to be drastically reordered to blunt these tendencies—was widespread in the aftermath of World War II.

In fact, the U.K. and U.S. had long-pursued wide-ranging social engineering efforts to that end.

A key architect was Scottish-born psychiatrist Donald Ewen Cameron, who played a significant role in the Nuremberg trials. His work The Social Reorganization of Germany argued Germans craved strict order and regimentation delivered by strong leaders, and these inclinations were fostered during childhood. He went so far as to advocate restrictions on which Germans could have offspring as a result.

Cameron’s shaping of post-war Germany is largely forgotten. Strikingly, he is more well known for his contributions to the MKULTRA program. He sought to create a real-life “Manchurian Candidate” for the CIA via various macabre means, such as forcing his patients to listen to hours of audio messages while under the influence of a drug cocktail that left their mind a "blank slate," onto which new behaviors could be programmed.

The monstrous technique was called “psychic driving.” While it failed to produce remote-controlled humans as hoped, its “primary values” were said to be “penetration of defenses [and] elicitation of hitherto inaccessible material," which may account for why Cameron’s methods of sensory deprivation and psychological torment were widely practiced on Guantanamo Bay prisoners in the "War on Terrorism."

The Likelihood That The CIA Encouraged The Kentler Experiments

An independent University of Hildesheim investigation of the Kentler experiments published in June 2020 concluded that a “network” of actors “tolerated, strengthened, and legitimized pedophile positions [and] also arranged and justifed pedophilic assaults in foster homes, shared apartments and other care constellations.” These actors systematically covered up “physical, sexual, or emotional mistreatment of children.”

The fundamental element of this nexus was the Social Democratic Party (SPD). It dominated West Berlin’s assorted political bodies and local governmental departments at every level, and one of the young boys housed with a pedophile claimed the party’s West Berlin branch “deliberately selected” him for the experiment.

Acccording to CIA whistleblower Philip Agee's 1978 book Dirty Work, Langley played a pivotal role in managing the SPD and shaping its policies throughout the Cold War. He claimed West Germany was “one of the most important operational areas for far-reaching CIA programs, designed to create an internal structure…which would be pro-American and anti-Communist, and to secure commercial interests.”

“The CIA supported not only the CDU (Christian Democratic Union), but also the SPD and the trade unions,” Agee wrote. “The CIA wanted the influence of the two major political parties to be strong enough to shut out and hold down any left opposition…[those] movements had to be discredited and destroyed.”

CIA units involved were “charged with special responsibilities for making contact with organizations and people within the political establishment,” such as the SPD and its elected representatives. “All information collected” was then used “to infiltrate and manipulate these organizations.”

Such penetration surely accounts for the SPD repudiating its radical Marxist roots in 1959 and abandoning all commitments to challenging capitalism.

As Agee described, during this period the CIA worked “systematically” to ensure “socialist parties of the free world [toed] a line compatible with American interests.”

Did the Agency moreover sanction if not outright encourage the Kentler experiments? Was Kentler a “U.S. deep cover agent overseas,” in the CIA Inspector General report’s phrase?

Whatever the truth of the matter, that document also called for MKULTRA experiments to be conducted in dedicated operational settings with strengthened “structure and controls.”

Foster homes and orphanages may have represented ideal environments from the CIA’s perspective. This certainly seems to have been the case in Denmark, as its central population register meant children experimented on could be tracked over the course of many years.

At the very least, it strains credulity to believe the CIA was not well-aware of what Kentler advocated. In fact, one of the Pedagogical Center’s key founders and planning committee members was James B. Conant, the first U.S. Ambassador to West Germany and adviser on educational issues in West Berlin from 1963-1965.

Conant was invited to join the center by Mayor Brandt, and the CIA-connected Ford Foundation. A 1983 National Academy of Science obituary records Conant “played a critical role in rallying support for this project,” eerily adding, “he unquestionably had an influence on adjustments that have been made in German education.”

European Countries Should Seek Answers

It was not until several years after Kentler’s death in July 2008 that his work and legacy was critically examined.

Shockingly, multiple contemporary obituaries paid positive tribute to the psychologist. Berlin daily newspaper Tageszeitung, which avowedly provided a figurative soapbox and megaphone to pedophiles and pro-pedophile organizations, deemed Kentler a “meritorious fighter for a permissive sexual morality."

In fact, the University of Hildesheim’s probe represented the first truly extensive insight into Kentler’s experiments. It exposed how the psychologist’s narrative of events—that he had sought to place at-risk youths in caring environments in the sincere but dangerously misguided hope it would be beneficial for them, and these trials were short-lived and limited in scope—was completely false. Nonetheless, this was for many years accepted and endorsed even by critical media outlets and academics.

Hildesheim's report showed facilitating abuse of foster home residents, vulnerable or not, was always Kentler’s primary objective, and the management of pedophile-run accommodations of this type continued until at least 2003.

That year, the foster home of Fritz H (a pseudonym) was closed, having opened 30 years ago. In that time, 10 youths passed through its doors, some simultaneously. Fritz was said to have “constantly and proactively” looked for new foster subjects all along, in a manner that was “unusual”.

Two children, who spent time in Fritz’s home, “impressively” reconstructed their experiences to University investigators, reporting “opaque and incomprehensible procedures, massive experiences of violence and abuse in many instances, and [the] strong influence” of Kentler on the residence.

Among documents related to Fritz’s foster home, a “large number of strong signals in the record,” such as a psychologist’s report, proof of completed legal proceedings regarding child abduction and child sexual abuse, a critical assessment by the Health Office, and an autopsy after the unexplained death of a child in Fritz’s custody, were identified, which should have prompted officials to critically reassess his suitability as a foster parent.

Instead, Fritz was regarded as a “robust and immune figure,” and the West Berlin Youth Welfare Office even defended him. There is no reason to believe he was alone.

West Germany was dotted with shared pedophile-run accommodations, where “sexual transgressions and assaults took place” for decades throughout the Cold War.

Another victim interviewed by the university was placed in a foster home run by West Berlin’s District Office in the early 1980s as a youth. He testified to his adoptive father’s “sexual transgressions and assaults,” child pornographic material he found in the man’s possessions, and letters he wrote to authorities about the monstrous conditions in which he lived. No authorities took action.

Those tasked with administering these vile experiments were allowed to commit awful crimes against vulnerable children for many decades. They benefited from a strict code of silence on the part of officials. A similar dynamic existed in Denmark, where authorities shredded records related to CIA experiments on orphans after learning the criminal conspiracy was finally being scrutinized by outsiders (decades after the fact).

An urgent need exists for potential CIA connections to the Kentler scandal to be independently investigated. Moreover, all European countries should work to uncover which abusive experiments or programs involving children were supported by the agency during the Cold War.